Last Updated: Wed Sep 05, 2012 18:56 pm (KSA) 15:56 pm (GMT)

Qaddafi’s former spy chief handed back to Libya

Muammar Qaddafi’s ex-spy chief has been handed over to Libya by Mauritanian authorities. (Reuters)
Muammar Qaddafi’s ex-spy chief has been handed over to Libya by Mauritanian authorities. (Reuters)

Muammar Qaddafi's former spy chief was taken into Libyan government custody on Wednesday after being extradited by Mauritania to face charges of crimes against humanity, officials said.

Abdullah al-Senussi, one of the most feared members of Qaddafi's regime before rebels toppled it last year, was captured in the West African state in March, triggering a tug of war between Libya, France and the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his extradition.

The news was confirmed by Libya's deputy prosecutor general confirmed.

"We confirm that Abdullah al-Senussi has been returned to Libya. A short time ago he was delivered to the office of the prosecutor general. He will undergo routine medical examination before questioning begins immediately afterwards," Taha Baara told AFP. "We will decide his fate afterwards."

A spokesman for the ICC, which has wanted to try him on charges of crimes against humanity including murder and persecution, said it had received no information about Senussi's handover to Libyan authorities in Tripoli.

“He was extradited to Libya on the basis of guarantees given by Libyan authorities,” a Mauritanian government source told Reuters, without giving details on the guarantees.

A high-level Libyan delegation was in Mauritania on Tuesday where it held meetings with Mauritanian authorities, he said. It was not clear if there was a court decision sanctioning the extradition.

In Tripoli, Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Saad al-Shelmani said he could not confirm that Senussi’s extradition had taken place but welcomed the news.

“We have been asking for this move for a very long time and it will be very welcome if it is true,” he said.

Senussi was arrested six months ago after arriving with a falsified Malian passport on a flight into the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott from Morocco. Mauritania’s original plan was to put him on trial for illegal entry - a move that threatened to delay efforts to have him face international justice.

In its warrant for Senussi’s arrest, the Hague-based ICC said he had used his position of command to have attacks carried out against opponents of Qaddafi, who was hunted down and killed by rebels after his ouster in August last year.

France has wanted to try Senussi in connection with a 1989 airliner bombing over Niger in which 54 of its nationals died.

Senussi has also been linked to the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland of an American PanAm jet that killed 270 people. Diplomatic sources have said the United States was keen to question him about that attack.

Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, is to go on trial in Libya this month, a government source said in August, in what would be the most high-profile prosecution of a figure from the late dictator's 42 years in power.

Libya’s new rulers, who aim to draw up a democratic constitution, are keen to try Qaddafi’s family members and loyalists at home. But human rights activists worry that a weak central government and a relative lack of rule of law mean legal proceedings will not meet international standards.

Saif al-Islam is also wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity during the uprising that brought down his father.

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